Power of the People: Sourcing Grassroots Wisdom to Reimagine Philanthropy’s Learning and Evaluation Processes

In the summer of 2020, we witnessed grassroots leaders anchor the largest racial justice protest movement in the history of the United States. Globally, millions of people—across generations and identities—demanded that we hold Black lives as sacred, and condemned the historic and continued state and police violence against and divestment of Black communities.

This movement also issued an urgent call to action for philanthropy: to more deeply invest in visions of Black freedom, safety, and joy, and to move into deepened alignment with grassroots movements for justice.

At the Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF) and Communities Transforming Policing Fund (CTPF), we took seriously this ask to shift both resources and power to communities—and acted, with intention, to transition our multi-year, unrestricted grantmaking models into community-led, participatory processes.

And as we interrogated other aspects of our funding process, we came to recognize the need for a new and participatory impact, learning, and evaluation paradigm: one that centers our grantee partners’ definitions of progress, and generates learnings on how philanthropy can be more accountable to movement organizers.

And thus, the Movement-Defined Learning Project was born.


Borealis Philanthropy Team

BLMF Program Director Julia Beatty

CTPF Program Director Jeree Thomas

Social Insights Research Team

Sr. Research and Evaluation Manager Win Guan

Former Sr. Research and Evaluation Manager, Maya Corneille

Liberatory Learning Lab Members

Beatriz Beckford, People’s Advocacy Institute

Lukee Forbes, Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition

Bianca Gomez, Freedom Inc.

Reginald Gravely, Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative

Robyn Hasan, Women on the Rise

Demaris Miller, Troy 4 Black Lives

Lola N’sangou, Mass Liberation Arizona

Markasa Tucker-Harris, African American Roundtable

Elizabeth Venable, Fund for Empowerment

Shawnte West, Black Lives Matter Louisville

Omodamola William, Young People for Progress